Collegiate Traditions Around the World

Screaming Swedes

While listening to the eight-minute long collective howling of 2,000 university students may not be part of your bedtime ritual, it is exactly that for many Swedes thanks to a local university tradition. While no one knows exactly how or why the phenomenon started, some attribute it to the need to release exam-related pressure.

So what happens exactly? Every night when the clock strikes 10pm, Swedish students open their windows or steps out onto roofs and balconies to send forth roars into the night. And while this tradition is believed to have started in the university town of Flogsta, it has since spread to Lund, Linköping and Stockholm.

The takeaway for students visitors to Sweden? In addition to academic enrichment for your brain, your pipes will also get a workout. Early-to-bed, early-to-rise types, however, may want to invest in a pair of earplugs.

A Different Kind of “Fancy Dress” in Finland

Coveralls, also called “boiler suits”, may be a hit on the latest red carpets and fashion runways, but college students in Finland have been working this look at parties for more than half a century. Back in the 1960s, Finnish engineering students donned this type of protective safety clothing before conducting on-site visits. Over time, this practice evolved to be more fun than functional.

Today, frolicking students wear different colored coveralls to signify affiliations with certain fields of study or organizations. And because they’re a form of expression, they come in a broad range of fanciful colors and styles. Additionally, they’re subject to further decoration at the whim of student wearers over their four years of use.

How popular are these boiler suits? Many student organizations sell them to incoming freshman! And while Finland is best known for this tradition, is also popular in Canada and Sweden.

India’s Peculiar Patchwork

India may produce a significant portion of the world’s most sought-after future workforce members, but its students are not all work and no play. In fact, India’s universities are home to a number of different collegiate traditions. Want to improve your sexual prospects? Pay homage to the “Virgin Tree.” Safeguard yourself from failing out of school? Don’t sit on the infamous Arrear stone.

And then there’s that whole “mosquito bat dance” thing in which students have turned warding off the pesky local insects into a dance move, thereby giving whole new meaning to the expression, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

The list of Indian college campus traditions goes on and on. In other words, if India is your international study destination, be prepared to work, but to play, too.

The U.S.: No Stranger to Strange Traditions

It’s not exactly surprising that the U.S. would have a “go big or go home” attitude when it comes to student traditions.  P ractically every one of its more than 5,000 colleges and universities has student traditions of its own, although they vary in terms of level of extremity…and legality. (Here’s a hint: many of them involve naked running through quads, dorms, streets and other campus byways.)

So what are American students up to these days? From stealing cemetery sod from sports rivals and rubbing various body parts of statues for good luck to bedecking campus trees with shoes and building and parading dragon structures around campus, American students keep themselves quite busy keeping up with local traditions. Or what about an entire day dedicated to celebrating nitrogen or an entire night committed to preventing other students from studying for their infamously difficult organic chemistry exams? And did we mention the “quiet clubbing” phenomenon in which students wear wireless headphones to dance the night away in a silent room?

One thing to keep in mind: just as visiting the U.S. feels very different depending on your specific destination, so do these traditions vary widely from campus to campus.